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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

50 Books About Being Different

I've been on a bit of a book kick this past year, probably because I got all riled up at our county library this past summer.  It seems our library's "Summer Reading Program" isn't actually as advertized, and is instead a "Summer Activities Program."  My Tongginator read all of the books on the rising fourth grader list, but was told by an oh-so-friendly librarian that she would not in fact receive the prize advertized for the READING program because she failed to attend an afternoon ACTIVITY sponsored by the library the previous week, a magic show oh-so-helpfully geared for preschoolers.

*banging head against wall*

Whatever.  But now I'm on a bit of a book kick.  I think it's extremely important to expose our children to books that depict a wide range of races, faiths, cultures, abilities and interests. One aspect of privilege is assuming that most of the people you or your children study in history classes and books will be of the same race, culture, gender or faith as you are. Exposing our children to fictional characters and historical figures that don't reflect their experience helps give our children a broader view of the world. It also encourages empathy.  So here goes my list of fifty books about being different.

I hope your local library carries many of these titles.

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman.  Grace loves stories - all kinds of stories - and when her class puts on a presentation of the beloved tale Peter Pan, Grace knows exactly who she wants to be.  Except several of her classmates tell her that she can't portray Peter Pan because she's a girl.  And that she can't portray Peter Pan because she's black.  Well, Grace shows them.  And she is the best Peter Pan ever.  Hoffman's book deals with both racism and sexism in an age-appropriate and gentle way, leading children through stereotypes so that they can reexamine their beliefs.  I especially love this book because Grace so reminds me of my Tongginator - she won't take no for an answer! A Reading Rainbow Book and a New York Times Bestseller. [RACE; GENDER]

The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jen Wojtowicz.  I pretty much love any book published by Barefoot Books, and The Boy Who Grew Flowers is no exception.  This whimsical story about a quirky boy named Rink (from an extremely quirky family) and a kind girl named Angelina (whose right leg is shorter than her left) beautifully illustrates the importance of self-acceptance, kindness and loving friendship.  You must, however, embrace the mystical since Rink sprouts flowers from his body on nights when the full moon fills the sky.  Yep, I know.  It's a tad... different.  But the innocent, budding (ha!) romance between Rink and Angelina is sweetly powerful.  And it highlights the importance of accepting our own and others' quirks and challenges. BOTYA 2005 Finalist [LIMB DIFFERENCE; UNIQUE FAMILY; UNIQUE CHARACTERISTIC]

Catherine's Story by Genevieve Moore.  This is probably one of the most sensitively done special needs books I have ever encountered.  Catherine can't walk without leg braces, and she has a special way of clapping her hands, and this leads to lots of questions and comments from her cousin Frances.  When Frances comments to her dad that Catherine can't talk, her dad - Catherine's uncle - replies, "lots and lots of people talk... maybe too much... but Catherine listens very, very hard."  This small snippet shows how much the text values and honors Catherine's contributions to her loving family. [EPILEPSY: WEST SYNDROME]

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes.  Chrysanthemum is a petite mouse with a big personality who loves her unusual name until new classmates pick on her for being different.  The story leads the reader from Chrysanthemum's total loss of confidence through to a stronger acceptance of and greater love for her one-of-a-kind moniker.  (A pretty awesome teacher named Delphinium Twinkle plays a starring role in that journey, by the way.  Don't we all just love great teachers?)  As someone with a rather unusual name myself - hence the blog name TM - I include this book among my favorites. ALA Notable Children's Book; NCTE Notable Children’s Trade Book in the Language Arts. [UNIQUE CHARACTERISTIC]

Cleversticks by Bernard Ashley.  Ling Sung started preschool on Monday, but by Wednesday he decided he didn't want to go anymore.  The other children could do so much more than he could: tying their own shoes, writing their names, buttoning up coats. He felt frustrated and fed up with clapping for other people for the things they could do.  Why couldn't he be good at something, too?  And then during snack time Ling Sung turned two paintbrushes into a pair of chopsticks... now everyone wants to learn!  And - most importantly - Ling Sung learns how to celebrate others' successes and accept help from them. [UNIQUE CHARACTERISTIC]

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz.  Seven-year-old Lena wants to paint a self-portrait using brown paint. Her mother, an artist, talks with Lena about the many different shades of brown, and takes Lena on a walk around the neighborhood to illustrate her point.  They compare the skin colors they see to all manner of yummy foods: ginger, honey, peanut butter, peaches, chocolate and more. I almost did not include this book since it reinforces some stereotypes through its illustrations (an Italian-American owns a pizzeria; an Arab-American owns a spices shop; etc.); however, I believe it does a good job of introducing different shades of skin color to very young children. I recommend it, but only when used in conjunction with other books about skin color and race. NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies. [RACE]

Crow Boy written and illustrated by Taro Yashima.  Chibi, who lives on the far side of the mountain, must leave at dawn every morning to attend school, and it's sunset before he arrives home.  He makes this trek every day despite the fact that local school children relentlessly tease and reject him.  He lives an isolated existence for five years... until the new teacher arrives. Mr. Isobe takes the time to get to know Chibi, to learn his personality and strengths. This book teaches children the importance of valuing individual differences.  And although the author of this book intended for Chibi to simply illustrate a quiet and introverted child, Chibi could also serve as a starting point to discuss autism and/or sensory processing disorder. Caldecott Honor Book. [AUTISM; SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER]

Don't Call Me Special: A First Look At Disability by Pat Thomas.  This book does a wonderful job introducing young children to individual disabilities, special equipment used by people with disabilities, and preconceptions and attitudes often held about people with disabilities.  I typically love the non-fiction A First Look At... books, and this is no exception.  The book begins by highlighting how all of us are different in some way, and we all need help with something.  It then goes on to explain how children with different disabilities might require help in different ways. [MANY DISABILITIES DISCUSSED]

Eating Gluten-Free with Emily: A Story for Children with Celiac Disease by Bonnie Kruszka.  Y'all know I had to include a book about Celiac.  I think it's very important to expose your child(ren) to at least one book about food allergies and/or intolerances, since this special need is the one they will most likely encounter during their school years.  Children with restrictive diets experience a lot of social "othering."  Our society is extremely food-focused, and children with Celiac, food allergies and/or intolerance often feel quite isolated and left out.  They feel "different" on a daily basis, much the same as does a child with a severe and/or visible special need. [CELIAC DISEASE; FOOD ALLERGIES]

Elmer by David McKee.  Elmer is a colorful character, in more ways than one. His cheery, humorous disposition keeps the other elephants in a laughingly good mood. Gradually, however, Elmer beings to doubt himself.  Are the other elephants laughing with him... or are they laughing at him?  His colorful patchwork quilt stands out amongst all of the gray.  For awhile he tries to blend in with the herd, but eventually he realizes that he's happiest simply being himself.  It's an important lesson for children to learn - be yourself, even if "yourself" doesn't quite fit in with the herd! [UNIQUE CHARACTERISTIC]

The Empty Pot by Demi.  When the Chinese Emperor announces that his successor will be the child who grows the most beautiful flowers from the seeds the emperor distributes, only Ping shows the strength of character to stand before the Emperor with an empty pot.  At first insecure about his first gardening failure, Ping clings to his father's advice, "your best is good enough." The other children all carry flower pots filled with lush plants and beautiful blooms, but Ping stands alone holding nothing.  The other children laugh at him, but the Emperor praises him, announcing that he first cooked the seeds so that nothing would grow.  Honesty and bravery are necessary for an Emperor. IRA-CBC Children's Choice Award; An American Bookseller "Pick of the Lists" book; NEA's Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children. [UNIQUE CHOICE]

Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore.  I love this book because so many children can relate - everyone typically feels embarrassed by at least one of their physical attributes, whether it's a too large nose or their height or - as in this book - freckles.  The main character does everything she can to hide her freckles, from unsuccessfully trying to scrub them off to wearing a ski mask. The ski mask works well to hide her freckles, but unfortunately her friends don't recognize her! Eventually she realizes that, although she might never love having freckles, they are a special part of her that make her unique. Julianne Moore, an actress with lots of freckles, wrote this story to reflect her own childhood. [UNIQUE CHARACTERISTIC]

Frederick by Leo Lionni.  Frederick the mouse, an artist and poet, sits on a sunny rock dreaming the days away, collecting words and colors, while the other mice work to gather grain and nuts for the winter.  Later in the winter, when the food runs out, Frederick warms his small community and fills them up with his poetry. My husband, who often experienced hunger during his childhood, is not a huge fan of this book, which he feels glorifies laziness.  While I see his point, I still feel that Frederick teaches children about the importance of art, imagination and being true to oneself.  Caldecott Honor Book. [UNIQUE CHOICE]

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae. Gerald the Giraffe wants to dance more than anything, but... he's really terrible at it.  His crooked knees and thin legs make it nearly impossible for him to dance like all of the other animals.  He grows more and more depressed as he watches the other animals tango, cha-cha, waltz and perform many other ballroom and folk dances.  After the other animals laugh at Gerald, he runs away, only to find an unlikely friend who teaches them that we all can dance in our own special ways. [UNIQUE CHARACTERISTIC]

Guji Guji by Chih-Yuan Chen. Guji Guji is just your ordinary duck... only he isn't exactly a duck - he's a crocodile... er... crocoduck. Raised from an egg by Momma Duck, Guji Guji spends his early life learning how to be a proper duckling, despite the fact that he looks nothing like his brothers. One fateful day, he meets up with three nasty, grinning creatures who try to persuade him to deliver his fat, delicious duck relatives for their dinner! What's a "crocoduck" to do? This book teaches valuable lessons about identity and what it means to be a unique family. ALA Notable Children's Book. [UNIQUE FAMILY]

Hannah is my Name: A Young Immigrant's Story by Belle Yang. Na-Li and her family immigrate to the United States from Taiwan, leaving behind many things, including their names. Na-Li (whose name means beautiful in Mandarin) slowly adjusts to her new "American" name Hannah, works to learn her new language English and experiences a new culture, all while her parents work hard to obtain green cards. NCSS-CBC Notable Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies; Chinese American Librarian Association Best Picture Book of 2008. [RACE; UNIQUE FAMILY]

Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester. No matter how hard he tries, Rodney Rat just can't seem to pronounce his Rs.His classmates tease him mercilessly and exclude him during recess. Rodney withdraws more and more until one day... Camilla Caoybara appears on the scene. Camilla announces to the class that she is bigger, meaner and smarter than anyone around. And she is! When the teacher picks Rodney to act as team captain during a game of Simon Says..., Rodney feels terrified. What happens next creates Rodney the Hero as he saves the class from Camilla the Bully. [SPEECH IMPEDIMENT]

I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont. This humorous ode to self-esteem encourages young children to appreciate everything about themselves, inside and out. The story follows an African-American girl brimming with self-confidence. Messy hair? Beaver breath? So what! "No matter if they stop and stare, no person ever anywhere can make me feel that what they see is all there really is to me." The illustrations are reminiscent of Dr. Seuss, with fun out of proportion people and animals, a Seuss-like bicycle and clawed couch. MLA Building Block Award 2005. [UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS]

It's Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr.  Children of every size, color, family makeup and background will learn that they are okay, no matter how different they feel. Author/ illustrator Parr covers everything from the sensitive ("it's okay to be adopted" depicts a puppy resting inside the pouch of a kangaroo) to the downright silly ("it's okay to help a squirrel collect nuts"). I especially appreciate the carefully done "it's okay to have two moms ... it's okay to have two dads" page because the rather vague text can refer to adoptees, stepchildren and/or children who have parents in same-sex relationships. [MANY DISABILITIES DISCUSSED; UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS; UNIQUE FAMILIES]

Jane and the Dragon by Martin Baynton. During a time when girls are supposed to be genteel ladies above all else, Jane just doesn't fit in. She wants to be a knight, you see, and everyone laughs at her dreams except for the court jester. The jester lends her a small suit of armor and encourages her to practice. When an enormous dragon swoops in to cause havoc, Jane seizes the day. In the end, she turns an enemy into a friend, returns the prince to his parents the king and queen, becomes a proper knight with Saturdays off to visit a friend, and dances with the jester at the royal ball. The Jane series is so popular, it's now a television show. [UNIQUE CHOICE]

Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco. When Trisha and her family move, Trisha feels excited that she'll be mainstreamed at her new school instead of placed in a special needs class again, but on her first day, she is devastated to learn that Room 206 - her class - is known as "the junkyard." Then she meets her teacher, the quirky Mrs. Peterson, and her classmates, an oddly brilliant group of students each with their own unique talents. One day, the class explores a local junkyard where they collect an old model plane to refurbish for a class science project. All of Room 206 looks forward to the science fair when they will fly the plane from the roof of the school in remembrance of a classmate who died. The school bully tries to foil their plans, but in the end the Junkyard Wonders launch the plane and watch it soar. Inspired by the author's childhood. [LEARNING DISABILITIES]

Just Plain Fancy by Patricia Polacco. Naomi and her little sister Ruth care for their family's chickens in an Amish community. The Amish believe in simplicity, but Naomi struggles with feeling that everything in her life is just "too plain." She longs for something fancy. When the two girls find an unusual egg on the side of the road, they place it in a hen's nest, hoping it will soon hatch. Well, it does, and the bird that emerges is definitely not a chicken. The sisters name it Fancy and, worried that the grownups in their community will shun it, they keep it hidden. One day, as the community gathers, Fancy breaks free from the hen house and spreads her feathers for all to see. Naomi is praised for raising such a beautiful bird and learns that some kinds of "fancy" are acceptable. [UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS]

Kami and the Yaks by Andrea Stenn Strye. Just before the start of a new trek, a Sherpa family in Nepal learns that their yaks are missing. Young Kami, anxious to help his family, sets off alone to find the wandering animals who are essential to their way of life. A spunky deaf-mute child, Kami attempts to summon the yaks using his shrill whistle. When that doesn't work, he forges ahead, braving the elements. One steep mountainside and a fierce storm later, Kami finds the yaks herded around a young calf whose leg is trapped in the rocks. Unable to rescue the animal alone, Kami finds his father and brother, relating the problem through mime. Together the family rescues the calf, and the plucky hero proudly leads the way home. A Schneider Family Book Award winner 2008. [DEAFNESS; MUTISM]

Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus. Leo isn't doing any of the other things his same-age animal friends do: things like reading, writing, eating neatly or even speaking. His father expresses concern, but his mother feels confident that Leo will do things in his own time. Over time, Leo eventually absorbs what his peers have accomplished. He begins to "catch up," proving that his mother was right all along: he is just a late bloomer. I especially recommend this book to families who adopted older children either internationally or through foster care. Many times our children arrive in our home with developmental delays that, over time, gradually lessen and perhaps even disappear altogether. [DEVELOPMENTAL DELAYS]

Let's Talk About It: Extraordinary Friends by Fred Rogers. In this book, America's beloved Mr. Rogers challenges the stereotypes that often surround children with special needs and celebrates six children who are extraordinary friends. He begins by describing common feelings people experience when meeting someone with a disability, such as curiosity, fear or surprise. Readers are reassured that these reactions are normal and that getting to know individuals is the best way to understand and appreciate them. The six friends have six different special needs, from cerebral palsy to downs syndrome.  [MANY DISABILITIES DISCUSSED]

Looking After Louis by Lesley Ely. A little girl sits next to a boy named Louis at school. Louis rarely talks except to repeat words that others have said to him. And he doesn't often participate even though the little girl tries to involve him in class and at recess. Then one day another classmate named Sam finds a way for Louis to join in the fun: playing soccer. Sam asks his teacher to allow him to take Louis outside to play soccer during classtime. Mrs. Owlie agrees, which angers the little girl. But then she realizes, "sometimes it's okay to break the rules for special people." This book does very little to explain autism, but it does teach valuable lessons about inclusion. Nasen TES Special Educational Needs - Children's Book Award 2006. [AUTISM]

Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher. When a toddler sits on his energetic Mama's lap, it's easy for him to pretend that he is a train engineer peering down a dark tunnel, an astronaut flying his space shuttle through outer space, a ship's captain navigating the stormy seas, and so much more. His imagination and his Mama's "zooming machine" make all of this possible - a wheelchair that transports the child and his mother to work and play. Anchoring these adventures are the boy's father, who puts his child on his wife's lap in the morning and pushes her up "the steepest hills." This book is an unaffected, matter-of-fact glimpse into the life of a physically challenged person. [PARAPLEGIA]

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson-Peete. Twins Callie and Charlie have lots in common, but they are also very different. One of their largest differences is that Charlie doesn't talk much because Charlie has autism. Throughout the book, young Callie describes autism and how her family cares for Charlie, and she also frankly describes the challenges associated with autism. This book reflects the real-life experiences of the mother-daughter author team: actress Holly Robinson-Peete and her twelve-year-old daughter Ryan, who is a fraternal twin to a brother diagnosed with autism.  2011 Comstock Read Aloud Honor Book; 2011 Rodda Book Award Nominee. [AUTISM]

My Friend Isabelle by Eliza Woloson. Charlie and Isabelle are good friends. They enjoy doing many things together, like drawing and painting, or playing at the park. Charlie describes all the things he and Isabelle do together, how sometimes they're the same and sometimes different. Charlie is tall and knows "a lot of words," whereas Isabelle is short and sometimes her words are "hard to understand." "Mommy says," Charlie explains, "that differences are what make the world so great." What makes this book great is that it describes the simple friendship between two friends, one diagnosed with Downs Syndrome and one not. 2004 iParenting Media Award Winner. [DOWN SYNDROME]

My Pal Victor / Mi Amigo Victor by Diane Gonzales Bertrand.  Dominic and Victor do many fun things together.  They love to swim and ride roller coasters together, tell one another stories and jokes, and cheer one another on as they accomplish great things.  It's only on the last page that you learn Victor is in a wheelchair.  Most books in this genre are from the perspective of a disabled child, just happy to be accepted by others; but in My Pal Victor / Mi Amigo Victor, the non-disabled person is happy to be accepted just the way he is by a disabled person.  That's what makes this book unique.  2005 Schneider Family Book Award Winner [PARAPLEGIA]

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems.  Wilbur is different from all of the other naked mole rats in his colony because he wears clothes.  Not only that, he is an exceptionally snazzy dresser.  This creates much commotion among the community, and not in a good way.  At last, the naked mole rats consult Grand-pah, "the oldest, greatest, and most naked naked mole rat ever," who calls for a town meeting. To everyone's surprise, particularly Wilbur's, Grand-pah arrives in a seersucker suit and eloquently commends Wilbur's simple question: "Why not?"  [UNIQUE CHOICE]

Odd Boy Out: Young Albert Einstein by Don Brown.  I love this book because too many of us forget that giftedness is a special need.  Gifted children often struggle with emotional issues, asynchronous development and social isolation.  Odd Boy Out tells the story of Einstein and his hard-to-classify brilliance, which led to awesome scientific discoveries, but all too often left him a misunderstood outsider.  Although it's unknown whether or not Einstein was on the autism spectrum, this book will be useful to read with children who have Asperger's. [UNIQUE CHOICE; AUTISM; GIFTEDNESS]

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting.  It's hard being the new kid at school, especially when your manner of dress causes you to stand out and you don't yet speak or understand the language.  Farah feels all alone, even when surrounded by her classmates.  Then, on a class field trip to an apple orchard, Farah begins to connect with the other students, teaching them a valuable lesson about being different.  The illustrations, along with the words, show Farah's downcast silence and sense of isolation, her shy smile when a classmate befriends her, and, finally, her triumphant smile as she speaks one of her first English words, App-ell.   2006 Arab-American Book Award [RACE; RELIGION; UNIQUE FAMILY]

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson.  Clover's mom won't allow her to climb over the fence that separates the African-American side of town from the white part of town where Anna lives.  She says it isn't safe for Clover to be on "the other side."  The two girls manage to strike up a friendship anyway, sitting on the fence side by side through the heat of summer.  Eventually, it's the fence that's out of place, not the friendship. The book ends with Anna saying, "someday somebody's going to come along and knock this old fence down," and Clover agrees.  An ALA Notable Book; IRA Teacher’s Choices 2002; Booklist Editor’s Choice; and School Library Journal Best Book.   [RACE]

The Pirate of Kindergarten by Georgia Ella Lyon.  Doubles are good for lots of things: double scoops of ice cream; double cheese on a yummy pizza; double features at the movies; but double vision is NOT a good thing.  In fact, it can make kindergarten a pretty hard place to be, as Ginny soon finds out.  So when a school nurse diagnoses Ginny with double vision, she receives an eye patch to help her weak eye grow stronger so that she doesn't see double anymore.  This eye patch earns her the nickname the "pirate of kindergarten."  2011 Schneider Family Book Award Winner[VISION ISSUES]

A Place for Grace by Jean Davies Okimoto.  Grace is a little dog with big dreams. After discovering she's too small to become a seeing-eye dog, she meets Charlie, a deaf man who believes Grace would make the ideal hearing-aid dog.  This time her size is an asset, as hearing dogs must be able to spring lightly into the air to alert their deaf owners to sounds. But Grace mixes up the microwave beep with the doorbell and completely flunks Wake Up class (she jumps on the bed and goes to sleep at the sound of the alarm clock). Determined to help her graduate, her new owner cleverly personalizes her training and "snooze-alarm Grace" finally succeeds in becoming an official hearing dog. [DEAFNESS]

Ruby's Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges.  Ruby is unlike most little girls in old China. Instead of aspiring to get married, Ruby is determined to attend university when she grows up, just like the boys in her family.  She must do double duty to continue her schooling, for the boys in her family need only focus on their lessons, but Ruby must fit them in between chores and lessons on how to be a proper lady.  One day, her teacher shows Ruby's grandfather a poem she has written describing her poor luck to be born a girl.  Her Grandfather questions her, and she confides her wish to go to university. Years later, at a New Year's Day celebration, he proves that he was listening. 2003 Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator and New Author Awards; 2003 Amelia Bloomer Project/ALA Recommended Feminist Books for Youth. [GENDER]

The Sandwich Swap by Her Majesty Queen Rania AlAbdullah and Kelly DiPucchio.  Lily and Salma are best friends. They like doing all the same things, and they always eat lunch together. Lily eats peanut butter and Salma eats hummus, which isn't a big deal at all... until one day it is.  As the story of their fight spreads across the school, so does intolerance. Students begin choosing sides in the cafeteria and calling each other "jelly heads" and "chickpea brains."  When the two girls get caught in the middle of a food fight and called to the principal's office, they decide it's time to make some changes.  2010 Parent's Choice Award[CULTURE]

Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun: Having the Courage to Be Who You Are by Maria Dismondy.  I read this little known book to the girls in my Girl Scouts troop last year and they absolutely loved it.  Ralph loves to torment Lucy about the lunches she brings to school.  Not only that, he encourages other kids to be mean to Lucy, too.  Then one day Ralph needs Lucy's help.  Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun drive home the message that being different is what's actually cool. And being mean - isn't!  2011 Mom's Choice Award; 2011 Eric Hoffer Award Winner (Independent Publishing). [UNIQUE CHOICE]

Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy by Bob Sornson (and published by the Love & Logic Institute).   When Emily asks her big sister what the word empathy means, Emily has no idea that knowing the answer will change how she looks at people. But does it really matter to others if Emily notices how they're feeling? Stand in My Shoes shows kids how easy it is to develop empathy toward those around them. While this book does not specifically speak to others' differences, the development of empathy helps children navigate differences in a positive way.  [EMPATHY; SEVERAL DIFFERENCES MENTIONED]

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell.  Molly Lou Melon may be short, clumsy, buck-toothed, and possess a voice that sounds "like a bullfrog being squeezed by a boa constrictor," but she doesn't mind. Her grandmother believes in her, and constantly reminds her to have faith in herself.  And she does... until she moves to a new town, where a bully named Ronald begins tormenting her.  Molly Lou doesn't slink away; instead she stands tall and, in the end, Ronald ends up feeling pretty foolish.  2003 Beehive Award Winner for Best Children's Picture Book. [UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS]

Star of the Week: A Story of Love, Adoption and Brownies with Sprinkles by Darlene Friedman.  It's Cassidy Li's turn to be "Star of the Week" in her kindergarten classroom! She's excited, but she's also worried: she has photos of all of the important people in her life, with one big exception.  Cassidy Li, adopted from China as a baby, does not have any photos of her birth family.  She doesn't even know their names.  How will she deal with her "Star of the Week" poster? And the adoption questions that may come from her kindergarten classmates? [UNIQUE FAMILY]

Stephanie's Ponytail by Robert Munsch.  "Ugly, ugly, very ugly," decree Stephanie's classmates when she arrives at school sporting a ponytail. But the next day, all of the girls have put their hair up in ponytails, too. Irritated by these copycats, Stephanie has her mom move her ponytail to one side with the same results. After wearing it top and front as well, Stephanie announces that she's going to shave her head! The next day, her teacher and classmates are bald as billiard balls, but Stephanie is chased from the classroom with her very ordinary ponytail flying out behind her. [UNIQUE CHOICE]

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.  Ferdinand is the world's most peaceful and beloved little bull. While all of the other bulls snort, leap and butt their heads, Ferdinand is content to just sit and smell the flowers under his favorite cork tree.  The other little bulls love to fight and dream of being chosen for the bullfights in Madrid. But by mistake, Ferdinand is sent to fight. The only problem is, he will not fight.  In the end, there is nothing the matadors can do but take him home.  What's funny is that now I always think of the movie "The Blind Side" when I see the cover of this book.  Go figure.  [UNIQUE CHOICE]

Suki's Kimono by Chieri Uegaki.  On her first day of first grade, Suki chooses to wear her beloved blue cotton kimono to school because it reminds her of her Grandmother. Her older sisters object and other children on the playground laugh at her, but Suki sticks to her guns, even when her two sisters pretend they don't know her.  When it's Suki's turn to share with her classmates what she did over the summer, she tells them about the street festival she attended with her Grandmother and the circle dance that they took part in.  In fact, she gets so carried away reminiscing that she's soon humming the music and dancing away, much to the delight of her entire class! [CULTURE; UNIQUE CHOICE]

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester.  Tacky the Penguin is definitely an odd bird.  He's a total nonconformist living amid a group of perfectly proper penguins.  His loud behavior and even louder clothing causes quite a bit of conflict until the day he scares off a pack of hunters.  Tacky's friends then learn to appreciate his off-beat personality, now seeing him as quirky rather than annoying.  Tacky the Penguin is an endearing mix of wonderful messages (it's okay to be yourself; sometimes our fears are worse than the reality) that are all delivered in a humorous, silly story that children will listen to over and over without growing bored. [UNIQUE CHOICE]

Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco.  This is, hands down, my husband's favorite children's book.  Diagnosed with dyslexia in his late teens, he truly identifies with the author / main character of this book.  When Trisha starts school, she can't wait to learn how to read, but the letters just get jumbled up. She hates being different, and begins to believe her classmates when they call her a dummy. Then, in fifth grade, Mr. Falker changes everything. He sees through her sadness to the gifted artist she really is. And when he discovers that she can't read, he helps her prove to herself that she can - and will!  1998 Parent's Choice Honor Book[LEARNING DISABILITIES]

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts.  All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. Though Jeremy’s grandma says they don’t have room for "want," just "need," when his old shoes fall apart at school, he is more determined than ever to have those shoes, even a thrift-shop pair that are much too small. But sore feet aren’t much fun, and Jeremy soon sees that the things he has — warm boots, a loving grandma, and the chance to help a friend — are worth more than the things he wants.  2007 Blue Ribbon Award; 2007 Charlotte Zolotow Award, Highly Commended Book[SOCIOECONOMIC]

We'll Paint the Octopus Red by Stephanie Stuve-Bodee.  What starts as a regular new-baby story takes an unexpected twist.  At first Emma is unhappy at the thought of a brand-new baby brother or sister, but gradually she grows excited about the coming changes in her family.  She spends lots of time dreaming of what she can do with the new baby.  When Isaac is born, the family is confronted with the fact that he has Down Syndrome. Emma's father explains that Isaac will still be able to do all of the things that Emma hopes to do with him, he will just do them at a slower pace.  [DOWN SYNDROME]

Willow by Denise Brennan Nelson.  All of the students in Miss Hawthorn's art class draw trees that look exactly alike... all of the children except for Willow, that is.  Instead Willow paints what she sees when she closes her eyes. The rigid, unimaginative Miss Hawthorne and Willow experience several run-ins, yet at Christmas the only gift Miss Hawthorn receives is from Willow. The child presents her with her beloved art book, which begins a transformation in the dour, unhappy woman. When the children return to school after winter break, they discover an inspired teacher in paint-smeared jeans and smock who invites them to help her change their room into a work of art.  [UNIQUE CHOICE]


Casa Bicicleta said...

Eeke, I only have about a third of the books on this list! I am so far behind! I just added a few to my wish list on amazon. Thanks!
BTW, As a person in the arts I agree with you on your assessment of the book Fredrick. I always loved this story. :-)

Christina said...

This is fantastic! Thank you. Glad you are blogging again :)

The Gang's Momma! said...

Li'l Empress brought home Chrysanthemum the week before Christmas. OH I LOVED IT!!!!

And we discovered the Tacky books when our oldest two were homeschooling and we were at the public library weekly. There's a BUNCH of them and well worth the seeking out. Every one of them!

I've got some catching up to do on some of the other titles. Li'l Empress is really reading every thing in sight these days so I'm thinking an Amazon order is in order :)


Sophelia said...

Some wonderful sounding books here I can't wait to read~ thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the list! Two we love are "Brontorina" (http://www.amazon.com/Brontorina-James-Howe/dp/0763644374/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390498998&sr=8-1&keywords=bronterina) and "10,000 Dresses" (http://www.amazon.com/10-000-Dresses-Marcus-Ewert/dp/1583228500/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390499040&sr=8-1&keywords=10%2C000+dresses)

Anonymous said...

Great list. Now for some more homework--books for older kids. Two that Ilsa loved in elem school were "7 Daughters and 7 Sons" (retelling of Iraqi folk tale) and "Shadow Spinner." And there's lots for teens too. And adults--we should be learning about other cultures/outlooks/people as well, and reading is a great way to do it.

Alyson and Ford said...

So glad to read your posts again; we missed you! Thank you for the list; heading to the library this afternoon to find some of them!

Alyzabeth's Mommy

LucisMomma said...

So glad you are writing again. Love how your mind works, and how you share how to help our girls (and boys!).

Thanks for this book list. I added several to my cart on amazon. :)

I really have missed your Sunday blog links from other writers. I hope that you can occasionally post one of those.